Friday, November 25, 2016

So, What Has Changed? -- Peki Ne Değişti?

Mountains near Niğde, Turkey
 As I've gotten back to gardening in Seattle, I've realized that  just like we can have "culture shock" in a new country, the way we see plants and gardens can also be affected. Our decisions in the gardens we make are informed by many different things; not only the climatic realities of where we live, but also what I like to call our "inner garden."

The garden in Istanbul...
I've often thought of this scenario: Imagine three different people looking at a beautifully planted and maintained garden. One might find it pretty and appreciate the colors of the flowers, and be reminded of something their grandmother grew. Another might feel "at home" because something in it echoed the place where they grew up. Yet another might see something almost alien - perhaps fascinating but still inscrutable. That was me when I first moved from Iowa to the Pacific Northwest with all its coniferous forests and endless variety of broadleaf evergreens, not to mention plants I never even knew existed. I may as well have moved to the Mediterranean, it was that unfamiliar.

Four O'Clocks by old Istanbul house
And then I did, or at least the semi-Mediterranean. Istanbul is a city of microclimates; the northernmost parts affected by the cool moist climate of the Black Sea, the middle Bosphorus climate is something like Northern California, and the area along the Marmara coast is much more Mediterranean. I remember sitting in the hot sun on a patio in Kocamustafapaşa, looking at my parched garden, as storm clouds shot out lightning bolts and flooded Taksim just two miles away. The landscape around you affects the landscape in your mind. You plant what you want, learn what works and what doesn't, and find out about new things it has to offer. But within each of us is our own private mental landscape (or several) against which the things we see either resonate or don't. How that gets expressed in our gardens is a fascinating question for me. I don't pretend to have figured it out, either.

Trillium in Thornton Creek Park, Seattle
Now I'm back in Seattle, with a couple trips back to Turkey behind me as well as several visits to Denver as well as Arkansas, where my mother now lives. Both of those places, and the very different gardens I see there, have served to shake things up a bit. Not only have I seen unfamiliar things that tempt me to stretch my tastes in new directions, but I've also gained a new appreciation for some of the "weeds" of my youth; plants I never had any antipathy toward but never really thought about planting in a garden. My "inner garden" is still in flux. And so is my outer one; a bit of a jumble, which will certainly have another shakeup after the next move.

Sarracenia 'Adrian Slack',
Jerry Addington
The other thing that has happened since my return is reconnecting certain old threads. Since the age of 12 or so, I've been fascinated with insect-eating plants, starting with the first mail-order Venus Flytraps that I killed in almost no time, through the Pitcher Plants that grew famously until I couldn't figure out how to get them through winter, to the seed-grown Nepenthes in high-school. (I did get better at not killing them by the way!) They were an extreme challenge to grow in Istanbul because the water there has so much lime in it  that your tea kettle will turn into a rock quarry in a few months if you don't take measures. But here conditions are much more favorable, and there are so many people to buy from and trade with. So I'll be writing a lot about those too.

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